Project Management

Built-in change processes increase chance for IT project success

Don't get complacent when things are going well; you run the risk of overlooking a problem or an opportunity for change. Jay Rollins describes what he likes about the built-in change process his company uses and explains how it compares to the traditional project management approach.

Don't get complacent when things are going well; you run the risk of overlooking a problem or an opportunity for change. Jay Rollins describes what he likes about the built-in change process his company uses and explains how it compares to the traditional project management approach.

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Companies often find a business formula that works well and then hum along at a breakneck pace. Unfortunately, this is like running a race with blinders on. As your eyes focus on the end result, you ignore opportunities to do things better or look at new technologies that can greatly improve or disrupt your business. In order to take advantage of the improvements or avoid the disruptions, a mechanism needs to be built into the fabric of the company to make change part of everyday work life. When this mechanism is built into the company, the introduction and acceptance of change becomes a lot smoother.

When you have to stop to respond to an emergency, your workflow gets disrupted, goals are put on hold, projects that can add value to the company are delayed, etc. The same thing happens at the company level; when an issue can no longer be avoided, everything comes to a screeching halt so everyone can focus on addressing the crisis.

With a built-in mechanism to introduce change, this becomes part of the flow. It removes a degree of predictability at a company, but once it is accepted, things get accomplished.

Change of Business Task Force

Task force processes can significantly increase the chance for project success, especially in IT. Our health care company uses a built-in change process called the Change of Business Task Force that I think has many advantages.

How it works

A new opportunity arises. In your search to solve several pain points for folks in the field, you discover a system that can address almost all these issues. The challenge is that introducing the system will provide wholesale business process changes to the company. Manual processes have built up over the years -- so much so that positions have been created just to keep some of these manual processes going.

There has to be a business benefit to the project as well. It solves the pain points, as well as impacts revenue or adds other types of value or cost-cutting capabilities to the organization. In traditional project management, you try to pull together a cross-functional team with business owners of the process. You're pulling people from their day-to-day work (which their annual raises or bonuses are based on) to participate in a project that could take up a significant amount of their time. You'll often only get a partial effort, and the project manager becomes a cat herder instead of a high-powered team leader.

With a process such as the Change of Business Task Force, there are rewards associated with participation. In addition, the company does an excellent job of communicating the teams' successes. By naming the groups and having an established process that almost everyone takes part in at least once annually, the partial efforts begin to disappear. This starts from the top. The CEO says a Change of Business Task Force has been established because the project is so important to the company. Line managers and supervisors know to support employees who are part of the process, and find other employees to help pitch in with the team member's day-to-day tasks if necessary.

How it compares to the traditional project management approach

The practical elements are all the same. The team is chartered with a clear goal statement and roles of the team membership. The artifacts, project management processes, etc. all seem to be the same. The difference comes from change being a built-in process.

The biggest difference between this approach and the traditional project management approach is the attitude of the task force members. They know why they are there, and they embrace change as part of the company culture.

Another fascinating aspect of this built-in mechanism is that it tends to drive out fear. Fear is a general term, but it is often the root of all failed projects and ineffective teams. There is a fear of failure, a fear of change, a fear that you will never get the work done, a fear that your day job is in jeopardy. Task force members know they have the support of management and their teammates to make this happen. This is very interesting to see in action.

Stay open to change

If you want to ensure you don't get complacent and then overlook an opportunity for change or miss seeing a possible problem, a built-in process such as the Change of Business Task Force may be just the ticket.

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